Simone Biles is doing things no other gymnast has ever done.
She hasn’t lost a competition in three years. She even has her own move called “The Biles,” a gravity-defying feat that no one else even dares trying.
“She flips backward with a straight body two times, and on the second flip, she does a half turn and she lands forward,” said her coach Aimee Boorman. “So she's going backwards. She's like arched backwards, and she flips and then starts her second flip. And before she finishes the second flip, she turns her body.”
And just this past weekend, she took one more step towards the one thing she hasn’t yet achieved -- an Olympic medal. Biles qualified for the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team and is heading to Rio next month for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“Sometimes I hear the crowd cheering and most of the time your body’s on auto pilot so sometimes even after I do a floor routine, I’m like, 'Did I really just do that?'” Biles said. “But it’s very exciting to hear the cheering crowd and stuff like that.”
Biles’ talent and her medals have caught the attention of corporate sponsors, including Tide Pods.
In 2012, Biles was too young to compete in the London Games, but since then, she has been on fire.
The 19-year-old gymnast is a three-time all-around World Gymnastics champion, the first woman to win the title three times in a row. She has earned 14 medals in the World Championships, 10 of which are gold.
She said she works 32 hours a week and she’s been home-schooled since she was 16 years old to focus on gymnastics.
“I was missing out on public school and going to the football games, prom or homecomings,” Biles said. “But I’ve been to three World Championships ... so I think it’s like a win-win.”
Béla Károlyi, who has coached nine Olympic champions, including greats like Romanian Nadia Comaneci, said Biles compares to the very best in Olympic gymnastics history.
“Nadia back at the time was considered the absolute perfection,” Károlyi said. “Then Mary Lou [Retton] at her time was considered the wonder child of gymnastics, and now Simone’s time is coming up [to be] considered absolutely the best gymnast in the world.”
Biles’ mother, Nellie Biles, said she was “always jumping, always flipping” from the time she was a little girl.
“I don't think Simone ever walked up the stairs,” she said.
But discovering gymnastics came as an accident.
“Simone went on a field trip,” Nellie Biles said. “And that day they were supposed to go to a ranch, but it was very hot, and because it was an outdoor trip, it got cancelled, and so they did an indoor trip instead and then ended up going to Bannon's Gymnastix.
“I still recall Simone coming home with a note,” she continued. “And it was a note saying ... ‘Would we consider her joining the gym?’”
Simone Biles’ biological grandparents adopted her from foster care when she was 5 years old. With their unwavering support, Biles thrived.
“They always travel to my meets and do whatever they need to do for me,” she said. “So I’m really grateful for that and I think whenever I go out and compete, they get very excited when I do well because they know all I put in.”
Boorman remembers when she saw Biles for the first time when she was just 6 years old.
“I was, like, ‘What is with this kid?’” she said. “She did a round-off back handspring her very first time in class, and she said, ‘My brother taught it to me in the backyard.’ So it didn't take long before we pulled her to have her evaluated for team.”
It’s her handsprings, perfected, that set Biles apart, Boorman said.
“You know how some people have incredible balance? Well, imagine having balance without your feet on the ground while flipping and twisting and knowing exactly when you have to bring your feet down to the floor so that you don't die,” Boorman said.
Boorman said she knows the countless hours Biles has put in at the gym have been tough on her, forcing her to miss out on certain teenage moments.
“She saw her friends that she grew up with going to prom and homecoming and all that stuff, and she didn't get to participate in any of that, so I know it was a struggle,” Boorman said. “She is a major rock star. I mean, when you have people like Mary Lou Retton and Béla Károlyi, saying that, you know, she's probably the greatest gymnast they've ever seen in their lives, that's a really big deal.”
Biles is the favorite to win gold in five of the six Olympic events next month. She needs just three gold medals to become the most decorated American gymnast of all time. Given the chance to take on that Olympic podium, she said she would be very emotional.
“You just kind of feel everything like all your hard work put into that one moment and especially with the team you all get to share that memory together and remember forever,” she said.